“I would like to thank my country, my beloved motherland for having given me the opportunity to serve it. It allowed me to serve it at its highest judicial office. All of me is what my country allowed me to be. I served my country in the manner of discharging a debt. And I feel that it’s difficult to ever discharge a debt to your country… something like you can never discharge your debt to your parents. Likewise I feel it’s impossible to discharge the debt you owe to your country. All I can say is I worked with a clear conscience in response to the confidence reposed in me,” he said.
At the farewell organised by the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), Venugopal said the Chief Justice had to be given credit for the triple talaq verdict. The case would have languished for many years in the Supreme Court if it was not for CJI Khehar, he said.
Venugopal said: “The second case for which he has to be given credit to is right to privacy. The nine judges came about because when the case was on the list, it was mentioned to him there was an eight-judge bench as well as a six-judge bench which had held that the right to privacy is not a fundamental right. And straightaway he said, ‘in which case I will constitute a nine-judges bench’.”
He added: “We have now an extraordinary judgment which has upheld the right to privacy as a major fundamental right which, if we look into the newspapers or TV, has been welcomed by every single person in this country. And that, I think, is one of the greatest things that the Supreme Court of India has done.”
What made his comments interesting is that he had opposed the elevation of privacy as a fundamental right while outlining the Centre’s stand before the nine-judge Constitution bench. However, unlike his predecessor Mukul Rohatgi, who opposed it entirely, Venugopal had conceded before the court that privacy could be a “wholly qualified fundamental right”.